Monday, May 18, 2009


 By David Pugliese

Ottawa Citizen

A coveted military badge that was to have been presented to troops who saw combat in Afghanistan won’t be issued after all, the Canadian Forces has decided.


The combat action badge had been promised by former Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Rick Hillier and was long awaited by those troops who had been involved in intense fighting in Afghanistan.


But last fall, the military leadership decided not to proceed with the badge. They, however, didn’t bother to inform military personnel about the decision, Defence Department insiders confirm.


Worried about  an upcoming Citizen article on the badge, the Canadian Forces hurriedly issued a military-wide message Friday from Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Walter Natynczyk, finally informing the troops they won’t be getting the award.


“The Canadian Forces and the Government of Canada is committed to honouring and recognizing the valued contribution of sailors, soldiers, air men and women of the CF,” Defence Department communications advisor Linda Coleman added in an email. “Significant improvements have been made to honour and recognize the service of our CF members.”


In his message Friday, Natynczyk stated the decision had been made “following consultation with sailors, soldiers, airmen and airwomen.”


But the announcement is a major reversal for the military. In an interview in April 2008 Hillier told the Citizen that the badge had already been designed and would be issued to soldiers who had been in a combat operation.


Afghan war veterans had been keen to receive the combat insignia, a situation acknowledged by Hillier. He stated that the badge would be issued by the end of 2008.


But in a interview with the Citizen late last year Natynczyk pointed out there were problems with determining who would get the badge. At that point, he said, the issue was being reconsidered.


He noted that when the badge was first proposed the Canadian military had just fought in Operation Medusa in 2006 and a limited number of soldiers had experienced combat up until that point.


But two years on into the war large numbers of personnel experienced some form of action. “The idea at that time was only the door-kickers, only those who were going into operations would do the combat action,” Natynczyk explained. “Now what you’re finding is whether you be a trucker, whether you be a medic, everyone in theatre is having a lot of opportunities to work outside the wire.  Now everyone is getting into firefights.”


That prompted a re-thinking on awarding the badge, with defence insiders noting there were concerns raised by those in favor of the insignia that it was no longer special. It would have been awarded both to personnel who had engaged in dozens of firefights with insurgents as well as soldiers who were fired at once during their tour of Afghanistan.


“The one thing we don’t want to do is have something that’s not enduring and that’s not truly special to folks,” Natynczyk explained.


According to Coleman the improvements made in recognizing the service of Canadian Forces personnel include the modernization of the Memorial Cross and reintroducing the Memorial Scroll and Memorial Bar and a simplified and accelerated nomination process for individual honours.


Also included is the creation of a number of new medals to recognize service such as the South-West Asia Service Medal, the General Campaign Star and the General Service Medal with their various bars and the Sacrifice Medal.


But a number of soldiers have contacted the Citizen to voice their displeasure about not receiving the award. They say they earned the badge under fire.

 For more Canadian Forces and Defence Department news go to the Ottawa Citizen and David Pugliese’s Defence Watch at:


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